Monday, August 15, 2005

The Ryun, Delay, Abramoff axis

Jack Abramoff was finally indicted for fraud and conspiracy. He's a lobbyist and fundraiser who has allied himself tightly with Tom Delay. Interestingly, House Majority Leader Delay's leadership PAC was just found to have violated campaign finance laws.

This would all be interesting on its own, since Delay and Abramoff have both been seen gallavanting around Scotland, Russia, Saipan and other junkets and fundraisers together. Here's some background on Abramoff, and another interesting source of info.

TPM Cafe has a handy guide to some secondary players in the unfolding scandal(s), and a whole miniblog to follow developments. Don't forget the Daily Delay.

The depth of sleaze surrounding Delay and Abramoff is too enormous to describe in a little blog post, so I'll jump into the local interest.

Item one: If you look at the largest recipients of money from Tom Delay's scandal plagued leadership PAC (Americans for a Republican Majority, or ARMPAC), you'll see that Kansas' second district congressman, Jim Ryun, ranks 6 out of 226 congresscritters who've received any money (thanks to the Public Campaign Action fund for easy access to that data). By the system Public Campaign Action Fund developed, Ryun is the representative third most aligned with Delay, behind Tom Feeney of Florida and Colorado's Bob Beauprez, both of whom have gotten less money from Delay's PAC.

On procedural votes, Ryun has supported rules which would have allowed Delay to continue serving in congress if he were indicted by the grand jury currently investigating possible violations of Texas state law, forbidding corporate donations to statewide PACs.

He's also one of only 27 congressmen who specifically stated that Delay is "ethically fit to serve as Majority Leader." Dennis Moore is one of 45 who said Delay isn't fit, the other two congressmen from Kansas didn't answer (or weren't asked?).

Jim Ryun also took money from Abramoff, though not for several years, and not much money at the time, but he's one of only ~55 people who've gotten direct contributions from Abramoff in the last decade. The problem with Abramoff is that he funnels money through his lobbying clients and through PACs (including ARMPAC), making it difficult to get an accurate picture of the level of influence he has over a given congressman. To really trace that sort of money you want to correlate an Abramoff donation and a PAC contribution in time.

I'll be running some of this down, but anyone who wants to tug on some threads should feel free to do so.

The evidence available paints a picture that's suggestive, but not conclusive. Ryun certainly got money from a tainted pool, but whether the tainted money was specifically aimed at him is a different question. There was also untainted money in the pool.

More on that question later.